There’s no doubt about it, desert pop-ups are having their time in the sun in the UAE. And a stunning new one has just been added to this expanding list.
Link by mara is a gorgeous new desert venue that has opened up in Sharjah, a 45-minute drive away from Downtown Dubai.
What’s unique about the space is that visitors can now experience dining down in the sand thanks to its unique seating options.
“We wanted to do something different. We had seen Saudi Arabia do something very similar, and were inspired by the beauty of AlUla,” says founder Adnan Mohamed Saleh Al Zarooni.
“So we decided to create a unique, cosy style of seating. We created a few excavated booths, so that people can enjoy a lower seating area, making them feel like they are part of the desert. Adding to the experience are fire pits in every booth,” he says.
There are 13 booths in total, and each one can seat six to 10 people. There are other seating options also available, with the booths being offered to bigger groups, says Al Zarooni.
The reason behind the firepits at each booth is two-fold – they offer warmth and cosiness which is perfect for the season, and can also be used by visitors to grill their own meat. Link by Mara sells a number of marinated meats, as well as halloumi and paneer, which can be purchased at the venue and cooked over the firepit within the booth.
Not in the mood to grill your own food? This desert restaurant also has a wide menu with a focus on international fusion street food. Options include everything from spicy edamame and mini beef tacos to shakshuka bruschetta, popcorn shrimp and dynamite prawns, sliders, pastas and pizzas.
“We wanted to show food from around the world – that’s the idea behind the place. So there’s a little something for everyone,” says Al Zarooni.
The food is prepared in a portable kitchen nearby. Link by mara is part of the Mara food group, which started in 2014 as a catering service, before launching venues in Sharjah and Dubai. It’s currently behind concepts such as Mara Lounge in Al Zahia and Mara Lounge and Restaurant in Wasl 51.
“This year, we wanted to do something different,” says Al Zarooni. “When it comes to winter, we know people want to go outside, and since we are in the UAE, we wanted to keep the focus on the beauty of our winter. We decided on this spot because it really feels like the middle of nowhere, but is also easily accessible by road and has enough parking.”
Link by mara has just launched live entertainment in the form of a DJ, and plans to place classic cars around to add to the ambience.
The restaurant will stay open in its current format until Ramadan, after which there are plans to construct air-conditioned domes.
Link by mara is open daily; 4pm-2am on weekdays and 4pm-3am on weekends; visitors can use the Requeue app to check wait times and add their names to the waiting list; Instagram: @linkbymara